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Switzerland have Spain playing the blame game

The result was not the only aspect of Spain's opening game that surprised me. It was also their reaction to it The result was not the only aspect of Spain's opening game that surprised me.

sports Updated: Jun 18, 2010 11:59 IST
The Guardian
The Guardian

The result was not the only aspect of Spain's opening game that surprised me. It was also their reaction to it The result was not the only aspect of Spain's opening game that surprised me. I was also struck by the reaction of their players to defeat against Switzerland. It was not the response I'd expect from reigning European champions and one of the few teams at the World Cup who can be confident of recovering from an early shock andprogressing.

To say the Spanish players were not happy as they walked off sounds like a statement of the obvious, but it wasn't the misery of the result that stood out. They were far from pleased with each other. There was a lot of finger-pointing going on and one player ended up in an argument with a member of the backroom team. There was no show of unity or harmony from Vicente del Bosque's players at all.

Spain must have a good team spirit it is only two years since they won the European Championship, after all and I know how upset players can be in defeat, especially in a game of that importance and with all the hype there has been around them in the build-up to the World Cup. But it looked as though quite a few Spanish players were keen to apportion blame elsewhere as they headed to the dressing room. I might be wrong, but their body language waspoor.

I suspect the ire was directed at the back four and goalkeeper. If you dominate a game and it finishes 0-0 then players will usually have a good moan at the strikers. But if you have 70 pc possession and lose 1-0 then the strikers and midfielders are entitled to have a pop at the defenders. As a manager you don't want to see that, but that appeared
to be the case.

Spain played some terrific football on Wednesday but concentration in defence is absolutely paramount when you play that way. They forced the issue against Switzerland. Not massively, there were no midfield runners for example, and had David Villa or Gerard Piqu scored in the first half the game would have been over and done with. But they had so much of the play they forgot to defend. It must have been galling for Del Bosque to watch his team have so much intricate possession
and concede from one long ball down the middle that his two central defenders and goalkeeper should have dealt with.

Carles Puyol is a fabulous defender and Iker Casillas won his 105th cap against the Swiss, but they switched off and now their team are under tremendous pressure. You shouldn't have almost three quarters of the possession and lose, and you certainly don't concede to a long ball down the middle. Perhaps, because of their recent record, Spain
lost sight of the fact that you can't score every time and that if you can't score, don't bloody concede. If you have to take a 0-0, take it.

Switzerland are in the box seat now and we should give Ottmar Hitzfeld and his players the credit they deserve. They made Spain go out wide.

They never allowed them through the middle. They had a narrow midfield four and a back four that sat on the edge of the 18-yard box for the most part, and they were marshalled brilliantly. When Spain got out wide they were made to cross it and rarely got in behind the Switzerland defence. On the few occasions they slipped, their goalkeeper saved them. Philippe Senderos and his replacement, Steve von Bergen, and Stphane Grichting, all had excellent games. They won almost everything
in the air, didn't dive in and didn't allow Spain to play it to feet on the edge of their penalty area. Spain seemed to give up putting the ball into the box towards the end. It looked as though they knew they couldn't win it in that area.

I love the fact that Switzerland can come to a World Cup and beat Spain.

Their style of play might not be to everyone's liking and I'm sure their tactics, and how Spain conceded, will encourage other teams to do the same against the European champions now. You have to go with what suits and Hitzfeld's team showed the favourites can be beaten. The tournament needed that.

Overall, I've been disappointed so far, but it's too early to deliver a verdict. Coaches have been afraid of pushing for the win and getting beaten. Everyone is desperate to get a foothold in the tournament in their first game, which I totally understand, but teams will have to change in their second games. The importance of winning now becomes
greater than the fear of losing. There are several big teams that have to win their second games. Spain, England and Italy will all be going out to do so and the emphasis will change.

First Published: Jun 18, 2010 11:15 IST